Amex opens airport oases

Airport lounges available to American Express cardholders 

Credit card issuer American Express has been quietly opening airport lounges in select airports across the country, giving cardholders another option for escaping what I call the cacophony of the concourse.

Named for the familiar Roman soldier that is part of the American Express (NYSE:AXP) card’s logo, the “The Centurion Lounge” and “The Centurion Studio” offer free access for global platinum card and centurion members.

Seating area in San Francisco Centurion Lounge
The Centurion Studio is an extension of The Centurion Lounge in a smaller setting, exclusively for platinum card and centurion members, according to the lounges' website.

Day passes for the larger lounges are available for $50 and may be purchased by holders of the company’s other cards; however, day passes are not available for the smaller Centurion Studio. Both the lounges and the studios are “day of departure” facilities that require confirmed travel plans for access.

The lounges offer high-speed Wi-Fi and power outlets near every seat; a computer bar; semi-private workspaces and conference space; fresh seasonal food items; a premium bar; shower suites; printing, fax and copy facilities; and a member services desk, among other amenities. The studio’s offerings are more limited but include food and beverages, Wi-Fi connectivity and, most importantly, some semblance of civility.

The company began opening the facilities for its traveling cardmembers when reciprocity agreements that had been in place with airline clubs began expiring and were not being renewed.

More reasons to say, “Don’t leave home without it.”

Work area at DFW Centurion Lounge
At present, there are five lounges and one studio. The lounges are located at Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport (DFW), Las Vegas McCarran (LAS), New York – La Guardia (LGA), Miami International (MIA), and San Francisco International (SFO), with a sixth lounge slated to open later this year at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston (IAH). The sole studio is open at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

While the American Express clubs are only available to card members and their guests, there are other options available for travelers who want a little peace, quiet and more refined surroundings as they wait for their flight.

Clubs operated by individual airlines have been around since the first American Airlines (NYSE:AAL) Admirals Club opened at New York’s La Guardia Airport in 1939. Today, Admirals Clubs, United Airlines’ (NYSE:UAL) United Clubs and Delta Air Lines’ (NYSE:DAL) Sky Clubs are familiar fixtures in most major airports. Other airline clubs including Alaska Airlines’ (NYSE:ALK) Board Rooms and Virgin America’s Lofts are also available, though at a smaller number of airports.

Virtually all airline clubs offer annual memberships, but most also offer day passes and some offer 30-day and 90-day memberships. As you might expect, the costs and conditions vary from airline to airline. I provided some details in a previous post, “Comparing the clubs,” which is available here.

There are also ways to obtain an airline club membership beyond ponying up the full price in dollars or euros. Read my post, “Accessing airline clubs economically” here.

Another option is a Priority Pass. Not tied to a specific airline, the Priority Pass provides access to over 850 lounges in over 400 cities with “more lounges being added every month,” according to Several membership plans are available, starting at $99 per year plus $27 per person per visit to $399 per year, which includes unlimited member visits at no additional charge. Priority Pass Select is also available through select U.S. financial institutions.

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Photos courtesy American Express
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